It’s just a little history repeating as ‘Cats prepare to go toe-to-toe with Wisconsin in Elite Eight
Nearly one year later and we our find ourselves in an all too familiar place.
It’s Wisconsin and Arizona; the West Region’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are clashing once again for a spot in the Final Four.
Indeed, as much as things have changed over the course of a year, they’ve also remained eerily similar.
Outside of the rosters being marginally different this season (say goodbye to Aaron Gordon and hello to Brandon Ashley, while swapping Nick Johnson for Stanley Johnson) and the two teams exchanging seeds (Wisconsin is this year’s No. 1, while Arizona was last year’s), there’s hardly anything that separates the two sides.
Even this year’s Elite Eight matchup takes place about 30 miles west of where last year’s head-to-head went down; moving from the Honda Center in Anaheim to the Staples Center in the heart of Los Angeles.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
For Arizona fans, however, the hope is for a decidedly different outcome than last March’s meeting.
The Wildcats have largely cruised to the Elite Eight, riding a stifling defense that has limited its last two opponents in Ohio State and Xavier to an average of 59 points. No small task when you consider the ‘Cats held Buckeyes super frosh D’Angelo Russell to nine points — more than 10 points below his season scoring average — and Xavier to approximately 15 points below what they had scored in consecutive tourney games against Ole Miss and Georgia State.
Of course, similar things could be said of Wisconsin’s road to L.A.
While the Badgers haven’t leaned on molar-rattling defense, they’ve instead employed a balanced offense that has proven to be about as difficult to stop as a rising tide. In three tournament games, the Badgers have scored at least 72 points in each of their wins.
In the round of 16, both teams withstood challenges from their opponents, only to rally and beat the opposition by virtually identical margins of victory.
By just about any measure you use in evaluating Saturday’s matchup between the Wildcats and Badgers, the conclusion you draw is that the tussle in Tinseltown is going to boil down to an absolute battle of wills.
Yes, as much as things have changed they’ve remained the same, but as compelling as the parallels are, the final chapter of this year-long saga practically begs to be as fresh and as unpredictable as the first time around.